Hacking Engagement

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

     Thanks for joining the #d100bloggerPD series on Hacking Engagement by @jamessturtevant.  Different staff in Berwyn South District 100 have been blogging about 5 hacks in a blog hop book study.  This post covers Hacks 26-30!  

Want to catch up?  Hacks 1-5     Hacks 6-10    Hacks 11-15    Hacks 16-20    Hacks 21-25

Hack 26: Engage the Enraged

The Hack: Engage Your Most Challenging Students

     My favorite part of this hack was found in the graphic.  "Teachers need to engage all their students."  This includes even the most challenging students.  If you get to know students and bond with them, then all students will succeed more, both academically and socially.  

     Teaching is about relationships.  Think about the dispositions that bother you.  Try to mute your words and body language when you feel challenged for the good of the class.  Empathize and think about why they are acting out.  Build relationships.

     Everyone deserves to be engaged.

Hack 27: Bust Down the Walls of your Classroom

The Hack: Create a Scavenger Hunt using the Entire School Building

     This hack was about not limiting yourself to just the 4 walls of your classroom as your instructional space.  It talked about a whole class scavenger hunt, where the kids used QR codes to crack the code and be active at the same time.  This would also allow for collaboration and problem solving as students worked in teams to solve the prompts.

     A few years ago, I did a version of this with a 2nd grade classroom.  Rather than break the class up and allow them to roam the building, Ms. Gillespie and I did it as a whole class with clues hidden around the building.  It was the culminating activity in their American symbols unit, and the kids had a great time finding the clues and exploring the building in the process.  If you don't want to send your kids off independently in teams, a whole class scavenger hunt is fun to try.  The video above includes some of the clues we hid around the building!   Can you guess what symbol they were trying to find?

Hack 28: Go Ahead and Be Flippant

The Hack: Create a Flipped Presentation

     Flipping content by videotaping yourself teaching a concept, or using some type of app to create a video lesson if you are camera shy, is a nice way to maximize interaction in class.   Rather than spending a lot of time talking at students, creating a flipped video and having them watch it at home before they come to class allows you to make different instructional choices while you are at school.

     I have also seen teachers flip their mini lesson, with a few modifications made for differing levels, and the students view them before they start their work in reading workshop, or while in centers.  That type of flipping can take some effort on teachers in terms of prep, but the ones who do it seem to like it.

     This hack is used if your students can't sit still or seem disengaged for the lesson.  If you can keep your lesson mini, you might not need to flip it at all.  Always remember to keep in mind the amount of time that your students can sit and listen to information when planning your lessons, and throw some other hacks (like cooperative structures) in when needed.

Hack 29:  Become a Proponent of the Exponent

The Hack: Captivate your Students with a Backstory about a Complicated Topic

     This hack told of a teacher, Zach Hite, who started his class with a complex math task.  After his students worked on it a little bit, he then told them the backstory of the problem.  Supposedly, it was created in 1637 by a Frenchman who claims that the problem has no solution.  Instantly, the backstory made the problem more engaging.

     Sturtevant claims that if you have content that is difficult to understand, you can research the backstory of the topic, and then present it in a compelling way to your students.  Our 4th grade teachers did this a few years ago with the Boston Massacre in the Revolutionary War.  They found an image of the event, but then told the historical description of the event and compared it to the visual depiction.  That backstory helped fuel their inquiry of the event, and ultimately the unit.

Hack 30: Avoid the Great War on Yoga Pants

The Hack: Evaluate Whether your Classroom Policies are in Need of an Update

    This hack is about how social trends usually fuel change in policy in the classroom.  Things like dress codes and technology use have changed dramatically in the classroom over the years.  He specifically talked about how they tried to ban yoga pants recently, but that the policy changed because girls advocated for their cause.

     He urges us to look at the policies that we have in place in our classroom, and ask ourselves why that procedure exists.  Was that decision made in another era?  Could it be updated?  His claim is that we undermine student engagement when we hold true to out of date policies.

      Are we doing things because they have always been done that way?  If so, does that engage the kids who are currently in the classroom?


     This book talked about some great ideas to get students in our classrooms involved in their own learning.  He also asks us to reflect on some of the decisions we make as teachers, and how those actions or beliefs impact overall engagement.  That is a great point.  Sometimes, we don't realize that our own perspectives or biases can negatively impact the classroom.  More importantly, we can make positive impacts on the climate and engagement in our classrooms just by taking a closer look at how we see things as the teacher.

     Next up!  Join Jordan Garrett as she explores Hacks 31-35!